Saturday, July 21, 2007

Not a cook?

The one good thing about cooking for a baby when you're not a cook is you start from the beginning. You're not cooking an elaborate meal for San Franciscans that are use to eating out at world famous restaurants.

At four months, it isn't really cooking because you use commercial rice cereal from a box. But the two months between four and six months gives you plenty of time to read pages 1-83 in the Super Baby Food book. I poured over these pages and re-read them three or four times. I felt like I was studying for an exam. That feeling hasn't ended for me.

At six months, you're really cooking. You're really cooking but just whole grain brown rice or millet, banana, avocado, sweet potato and yogurt. I didn't even know what millet was before I had a baby.

Although feeding my baby a banana doesn't really sound like cooking, I am learning a lot about food. I try mashing a banana with a fork and then in a hand blender. I add water and then no water. I try the frozen cube method. I buy some new kitchen tools. I realize how many dishes I am doing because my baby can't eat Thai take-out. This early stage is the time to master kitchen basics.

I am motivated by the question: Why are these the first foods? It is less overwhelming, completely doable to shop for these six items. I have time to learn about choice. How to pick the best banana, avocado, and sweet potato. I learn how to tell a ripe avocado from an avocado that is a few days out. I learn how to tell if an avocado will be bad by looking at its skin.

I learn that choosing a sweet potato isn't that easy. A sweet potato isn't a yam. I remember asking the check out lady at Rainbow Grocery, "How can you tell what potato I am buying?" She just shrugged. It is a learned skill to see the difference between a yam from China and sweet potato from the US. Once I figure out that I am looking at the correct potato, I want my sweet potato to be small and a uniform boat shape. I don't want to see notches in it or nicks. I start to feel like an empowered shopper. I feel like I am shopping for what I need rather than wondering around looking at the fronts of packages.

I always ate okay but didn't have the knowledge that I needed to really understand why we eat and the importance of eating foods not from a box. By buying basic unprocessed and unpackaged food for my baby, I naturally try to fit them into my adult meals. Suddenly, my body is taking in more nutrients then ever before and it only gets better from here.

Just like looking up words in a dictionary, I look up foods in a food encyclopedia. The Super Baby Food book is a great starting point. I also use, The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods, by Michael Murray. The "healing foods" part of the title is a little bit of a turn-off because I just want an encyclopedia not a healing book. Despite the title, this book is exactly what I was looking for. In my mind whenever I see a chapter header like "Healing Herbs," I just replace it with, "Eat these herbs for these nutritional reasons and you will get sick less often and avoid life threatening diseases." I look at those green garnishes a lot differently now.

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